Beacon Quick Picks

BY Richard Cherecwich

THE IRAQ STUDY GROUP; THE IRAQ STUDY GROUP REPORT; AVAILABLE NOW

Here’s a tasty morsel for the political junkie in all of us. Actually, it’s more like a meal full of truth and apocalyptic declarations. The news is buzzing about James A.,LITERATURE

BY Richard Cherecwich

THE IRAQ STUDY GROUP; THE IRAQ STUDY GROUP REPORT; AVAILABLE NOW

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Here’s a tasty morsel for the political junkie in all of us. Actually, it’s more like a meal full of truth and apocalyptic declarations. The news is buzzing about James A. Baker and cohorts’ searing indictment of the White House’s Iraq- war policy, so educate yourself and read the source. The Iraq Study Group Report collects eight months of research by the bipartisan committee into a ridiculously somber report about how this unjust war has gone to pot because of our oaf of a commander-in-chief. What’s even better is that proceeds from the sales go to the families of our enlisted.

HUNTER S. THOMPSON; HELL’S ANGELS; AVAILABLE NOW

So you got stuck with that shitty Mitch Albom book for a gift. Exchange it for this. In this startling work of non-fiction, Thompson hangs with the notorious California biker gang, gets smashed in dive bars, trashes his apartment and watches pillaging Angels consume copious amounts of beer, cannabis and pills. Published in 1966, it’s still a harrowing tale today, like Fear and Loathing on the back of a motorcycle. The details and nuance read like a novel, setting the way for the new journalism explosion that came later. Buy the ticket and take the ride, just don’t get stomped like Thompson does at the end.

FILM

by Harry Vaughn

THE GOOD GERMAN; IN THEATRES TOMORROW

What is Steven Soderbergh trying to achieve with his upcoming movie, The Good German? Is this an ode to the Casablanca classics of the ’40s or a revisionist commentary on the era? Is it an anti-war movie or simply a return to the Kafka form of the director’s earlier works? Maybe it’s all of the above, mashed up into a 90-minute movie. Whatever it is, look out for a reportedly Iago-worthy turn from Cate Blanchett as Lena Brandt, a deceptive femme fatal trying to escape post-WWII Berlin at the cost of her American-soldier boyfriend, Jake Geismar (George Clooney).

LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA; IN THEATRES DEC. 20

In a sudden scheduling maneuver, Clint Eastwood’s Japanese companion piece to Flags of Our Fathers comes out on Dec. 20, making it eligible for Academy Award consideration. Letters from Iowa Jima explores the Japanese side of the brutal WWII attack and brings humanity to the soldiers many believed at the time to be faceless and barbaric cowards. Letters has already won the National Board of Review award for Best Picture and could continue gathering speed come Oscar time. Even if Letters doesn’t end up clicking with Academy members, it’s important to note that Eastwood has, at this point, proven himself one of the most impressive and thought-provoking directors working today, creating films too telling to be ignored.

MUSIC

by Tali Dumdai

EMINEM; EMINEM PRESENTS: THE RE-UP; AVAILABLE NOW

At first glance, this record may seem like a cop-out, as all but a few songs are credited to almost half a dozen artists. The reason: the album began as a street mixtape project designed to introduce up-and-coming Shady Records artists Ca$his, Stat Quo and Bobby Creekwater, but for some reason turned into a full-length album. What ends up happening, however, is Eminem and 50 Cent steal the spotlight. Star tracks include “We’re Back,” “By My Side” and “No Apologies.” Overall, this album is mediocre, and not for listeners who aren’t aficionados of rap. Wait for the solo albums to drop like they’re hot.

INCUBUS; LIGHT GRENADES; AVAILABLE NOW

Incubus is always changing, growing and producing records that set it apart from the industry with every attempt. The group’s last effort, A Crow Left of the Murder, was hailed as Incubus’s best yet, but the follow-up, Light Grenades, holds its own. While not the best as a whole, this record includes some nominations for best Incubus songs. “Quicksand” is an odd lead track for Incubus but does its part. “Dig” is impressive and emotional, and the title track is raw and chaotic. Incubus mixes its older, harder sound with the softer, melodic stuff to create an album in which listeners can turn it way up and be engulfed by the music.

DVD

by Katie Greer

LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE; AVAILABLE DEC. 19

An indie film focused on the delights of dysfunctional family relationships, Little Miss Sunshine follows the Hoover family on its quest to escort daughter Olive to the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant in California. A drug-snorting grandfather, self-help guru father, a Nietzsche-obsessed mute son and a suicidal Proust scholar are just a sampling of the characters in Sunshine. It’s a large slice of social commentary topped with a heaping helping of dark humor, and it’s certainly worth the 101 minutes of your life it would inhabit. If you can spare the time, there are four alternate endings also included. That’s a whole lot of Steve Carell, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

LADY IN THE WATER; AVAILABLE DEC. 19

In a nutshell, Lady in the Water is the extremely confused big sister of The Little Mermaid. Bryce Dallas Howard looks beautiful, Paul Giamatti has quite a convincing stutter for most of the movie and while it is visually haunting and ethereal, the film’s otherworldly plot simply isn’t coherent. Once again, director M. Night Shyamalan centers his project around a plot that is so convoluted it distracts from everything else. It is hard to enjoy the acting or landscape when you’re still wondering exactly what a Narf is and why it reminds you so strongly of a foam football. Unless you happen to be a fan of Shyamalan’s stylistically obtuse pictures, you’re better off renting a movie that actually attempts to follow a logical sequence of events.